Bloggers already are deriding him as the second coming of Harold Stassen. Democrats, who accused him of swinging the 2000 election to the Republicans, now dismiss him as a crank.
Isn’t it interesting how many political pundits presume to tell Ralph Nader he shouldn’t run for president? I don’t recall anyone proffering such sage advice to candidates from either of the “major” parties.
Democrats, obviously, are the most exercised. Party faithful will never forgive Nader for George W. Bush. They postulate that Bush’s 537-vote victory in Florida wouldn’t have been possible without the 97,488 votes Nader won here.
Though widely held, this argument has obvious holes. Seven other minor candidates each garnered more than 537 votes, including three left-leaning Socialist/Workers/Labor parties.
Then there’s the damning and irreducible fact that Al Gore couldn’t even carry his own state, Tennessee, or Bill Clinton’s state, Arkansas. Either would have been sufficient to keep a Democrat in the White House.
“If the Democrats can’t win in a landslide this year, they should just pack up and go home,” Nader said Sunday in announcing his latest presidential bid.
In saying so, the consumer advocate all but acknowledges he has no chance to win. His goal is — and always has been — to stand for those who feel used and abused by this country’s power structure, fronted by the two-party system.
Nader says our democracy is in increasingly “fragile” condition. Pat Buchanan, a former Republican operative and third party candidate himself, goes further, calling U.S. democracy “a fraud.”
While the media and the masses bemoan “polarization” in America, political discourse has actually become more homogenized and vapid. That’s what you get when Democrats and Republicans feed from the same corporate trough.
Nader realized this back in 1992. After 30 years as a grassroots crusader committed to working within the system — and routinely disappointed and abandoned by Democrats– he launched his first write-in effort. He ran as an unaffiliated or Green Party candidate in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
If Nader were an egomaniac, as his critics claim, he would simply sit back as the elder statesman of consumer advocacy and bask in the warm glow of favorable press. And he would be entitled. Through his various groups, now operating under the Public Citizen umbrella, Nader instigated trail-blazing legislation ranging from seat belts and air bags, to food labels, radiation protection and the federal Freedom of Information Act.
Compare that record with the combined accomplishments of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Say what you will about Nader, he’s no empty suit. Indeed, his workingman’s wardrobe of cheap slacks and $10 shoes is an obvious contrast to the well coiffed Republicrats who place style over substance.
Rather than resting on his laurels and selling out for corporate contributions, Nader is putting himself on the line once again. Why? The 2006 documentary, “An Unreasonable Man,” offers an early insight into his ascetic and uncompromising character.
Raised in a politically active household where his immigrant father regularly asked young Ralph and his sisters about their day at school — “Did you learn to believe or did you learn to think?” — Nader always bridled at the rigid, mindless conformity that our two-party duopoly engenders.
As Michael Moore said in 2000, when he was on the Nader bandwagon, “If you vote for the lesser of evils, you still get evil.”
Moore doesn’t say that any more. He’s still stewing about Bush v. Gore. But Democrats need to get over Nader — and over themselves. Playing the victim is not a successful electoral strategy, as they’ve proven. And demonizing Nader merely reinforces the growing perception that today’s Democratic Party is too quick to equivocate on issues that should be rightfully theirs.
On his Web site, votenader.org, Nader lists a dozen issues that aren’t even on the table for Obama/Clinton (let alone McCain). Among them: a single-payer Medicare health program for all; aggressive crackdown on corporate crime and corporate welfare; no to nuclear power, solar energy first; an end to ballot access obstructionism (a sharp jab at Democrats who fought, anti-democratically, to disqualify the Green Party in several states in 2004).
Those who denigrate Nader are, in essence, saying this agenda isn’t worth discussing. But these issues do matter to a lot of Americans — and the country deserves a political system that’s open enough to debate them forthrightly. As of today, Nader is the only candidate attempting to give voice to the voiceless.
The more party operatives and pundits attempt to marginalize free thinkers like Nader, the louder they sound the death knell for representative democracy.
(Ken Ward is an editorial writer for the Treasure Coast newspapers.)